The Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika came into
existence in 1859 and grew from the original five
churches to 389 churches in 2017, with a total of 265
ministers of the Word. The churches are spread right
across the RSA and also in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
These churches are currently being served by 276
ministers, in approximately 15 languages. The GKSA
established its own theological school, founded in 1869
in Burgersdorp and operating since 1905 in
Potchefstroom. The Theological School Potchefstroom
(TSP) is staffed with 15 professors and three
administrative officials, connected to the Faculty of
Theology of the NWU, and has its own library.
The GKSA maintains its own archives and efficient
building complex that includes a well-equipped
auditorium. Ecumenical ties have been established with
churches in the USA, Scotland, Netherlands, Australia,
New Zealand, Brazil, the Congo, Japan and Korea. The
GKSA operates in accordance with Holy Scripture, the
three Formularies of Unity and the Canons of Dordt.
There was never a need to split the church during the
first century and a half of settlement at the Cape since
The early 1800s, however, saw the Reformed church of the
Cape Colony import a new hymnal from the Netherlands for
worship services. Many of the hymns contained in this
book were in conflict with the confessions of faith (Belgic
Confession, Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dordt),
as set out by the Synod of Dordtrecht in 1618/1619.
Protest arose from members of the remote north-east
districts, also known as “die Doppers”. Certain members
refused to sing these hymns right from the start,
saying: “In God’s house God’s song”. These were simple
folk from farming communities who strongly ascribed,
like their forebears, to Reformed authors such as à
Brakel, Smijtegeld and d'Outrein in conjunction with the
Dutch Authorised Version of the Bible.
A new form of church governance invested the state and
synod assemblies with every-increasing authority over
local church councils. A number of Reformed members
joined the “Groot Trek” of 1836 and those who remained
behind would experience trying times in the colony. The
“pastoral letter” of the Ring of Graaff-Reinet in 1842
especially added fuel to the fire. This missive claimed
that the “styfhoofdiges” (obstinate) refusing to sing
the new hymns were piercing the body of Christ. The
members who joined the Great Trek soon heard, at the
Transgariep, similar objections to the existing church.
Their objections to the hymns fell on deaf ears and at
times provoked heavy opposition. In die Republic of the
Orange Free State it was the Nederduits Gereformeerde
Kerk and in the Republic of Transvaal it was the
Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk. One of the main reasons the
Voortrekkers left the Cape was indeed the rigidity of
the church in terms of the state. They would initially
experience the same in the Transvaal.
The months preceding 1859 saw 15 brothers in the
Rustenburg area decide to split from the Nederduitsch
Hervormde Kerk in the then Republic of Transvaal; among
which was Paul Kruger – later the president van die
They gathered on 10 and 11 February 1859, under a
syringa tree, beside the Rustenburgse Hervormde Kerk.
Here 300 members took up membership with the
Gereformeerde Kerk in Suid-Afrika. They asked Rev. Dirk
Postma, a visiting minister from the Netherlands, to
become their minister of the Word and he accepted,
thereby taking up permanent residence in South Africa.
Rev. Postma’s considered the safest route, in terms of
the hymns, was to stay with those based on texts of the
These brothers’ spiritual family in the south at Winburg,
Reddersburg, Colesberg, Burgersdorp and Middelburg (Cape
Colony) eventually joined them. Congregations popped up
in quick succession in the Mooirivier district,
Pretoria, along the Crocodile River, Nylstroom and
Lydenburg in the Republic of Transvaal.
A few months after the founding of the Gereformeerde
Kerk in Rustenburg the N.G. Kerk minister in
Bloemfontein, Rev. Andrew Murray, acknowledged in a
letter to his brother, John that they had failed to
reach the spirit of the true Doppers. He further
concluded that the new ministry led by Rev. Postma
would, however, be able to reach their hearts… hearts
that had always seemed closed to them.
The end of 1862 already saw 1,079 confirmed members,
this number rose to 12,125 in 1904 and the Almanac of
1941 reported a total of 33,487.
The need for training of ministers of the Word and
teachers grew over time. In 1862 there were only two
ministers, who had to minister to the members of the
entire country, which grew to 17 by 1904 and 66 in 1941.
The first training took place in Burgersdorp in the
north-east Cape, but moved to Potchefstroom after the
Out of this school the Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir
Christelike Hoër Onderwys grew into a fully-fledged
university, with its Faculty of Theology that inter alia
serves as a theological school for the training of
ministers of the Word.